Monday – December 5, 2016
Ready to have your memory upgraded? It’s coming soon.
Theodore Berger, a biomedical engineer at the University of Southern California has created an implant device that would go behind your ear. Once in place, your ability to remember and access every moment in your life is suddenly engaged.
The implantable device, called Black Mirror, seems to mimic the function of the hippocampus by electrically stimulating the brain in a similar pattern that forms memories. So far it’s only been tested in rats and monkeys, but now Berger is testing one that could work in humans. So the effect would be similar to the movie Limitless, but without the need to constantly replenish the supply of pills from unscrupulous providers. But then again, wasn’t there another movie about someone hacking into one of those devices and turning everyone into a zombie?
The Black Mirror device works based on a theory about how the hippocampus transforms short-term memories into long-term memories. In Berger’s early experiments with rabbits, he combined a tone and a puff of air to get the rabbit to blink. And just like in Pavlov’s famous experiments he replicated the blink reaction by playing the tone.
Berger claims that he’s been able to mathematically model the general rule that the hippocampus uses to convert short-term memories into long-term memories. Using that general rule, Berger has been able to build an artificial hippocampus for rats. So far the tests have been pretty remarkable.
Probably the biggest challenge to overcome in order to duplicate this success in humans is the staggering number of neurons and connections between those neurons. There are literally billions of neurons, and trillions of connections. But that doesn’t mean Berger won’t accomplish it with the computing power available to us today.
The initial launch is targeted at an implant device that can help patients with memory impairment, and there is a current human trial with a different version of the device. So far, the results have been pretty promising. And then there’s the FDA to deal with.